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Liberia: The Case Against Samukai: Ex-Defense Minister Says Economic Sabotage Charges Politically Motivated

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Monrovia – Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai’s bid for the Lofa County Senatorial race next year appears to have been derailed, at least for the moment in the wake of an indictment served by the George Weah-led government, accusing Mr. Samukai and his team of among other things, Economic Sabotage, Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy, Misuse of Public Money and Money Laundering.

The indictment in the possession of FrontPageAfrica accuses Minister Samukai and his deputy, Joseph Johnson and Comptroller, J. Nyumah Dorkor opened an account in the name of the “AFL Pension Account” at Ecobank Liberia with account number 1092-522-22-19.

The indictment states that the account was based upon salaries deductions and established to provide benefits to wounded AFL soldiers and also to families of the dead AFL soldiers as well as to supplement pension package to personnel of the AFL upon retirement from active service. 

That of the total amount in the account, totaling $US1,259,462.00, co-defendant Samukai and his comptroller, Dorkor caused the direct withdrawal and transferred of US$852.860, and intentionally expended the same basically on activities that were already provided for under the National Budget of the Republic of Liberia, such as AFL operations. “In furtherance of the theft, co-defendant, J. Brownie Samukai, Jr., illegally paid US$50,000 as death benefits to the families of the late General Abdurraham, who did not contribute anything to the fund, while serving the AFL as Chief of Staff.

Politically-Motivated Claims

In his own defense, Mr. Samukai has dismissed the allegations against him, telling the Liberian News Agency that he never stole a dime during his term as Minister of National Defense.

An aide to the former Defense Minister says the decision to go after him is political motivated, going back to a series of secret meetings held prior to the departure of President Weah for Israel recently.

The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing fears of repercussions, said that Mr. Samukai rejected and refused to join the CDC to become the ruling party’s candidate for the 2020 senatorial elections in Lofa.  The aide said, President Weah was disappointed that Samukai had refused to join the “movement” ((CDC).

The source say, Mr. Samukai believes that the administration has been working to keep the former defense minister busy in court so that he will be able to participate in the ensuing elections.

The source said that between January 14th-January 17th  2018,  a series of meetings were held between former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and President-elect Weah along with then AFL Chief-of-Staff General Ziankhan and then Col. Geraldine George at the time regarding expenditures made on the AFL from the AFL Welfare and pension account.  “During those meetings after detailed examinations, it was determined and concluded that the government of Liberia should have provided the funds for these expenditures on the AFL instead of using the AFL welfare funds being used.

The source added that a final meeting was held on the evening of January 17th at the residence of then president-elect Weah along with Minister Samukai, AFL C-O-S Ziankhan and Col. George  in which President Weah confirmed to Gen. Ziankhan in that meeting about the decision with President Sirleaf that the incoming government will refund the welfare funds expended on the AFL.

The Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia has outlined a laundry list of charges  against former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, ranging from Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy, Economic Sabotage, Misuse of Public Money and Money Laundering. Aides to the former Defense Minister say the decision to go after him goes back to a series of secret meetings held prior to the departure of President George Manneh Weah for Israel this year. The sources speaking on condition of anonymity said,  after the meeting, Mr. Samukai rejected a request for him to join the ruling CDC to become their candidate for the 2020 senatorial elections in Lofa.  According to those sources President Weah expressed disappointment in the former minister’s refusal to join the “movement” (CDC). Samukai aides say, the indictment is a ploy devised to derail his quest for the Lofa County Senatorial race  in 2020.

Upon the request of Gen Ziankhan, the source added, for this to be made public President-elect Weah directed that MOD Samukai should hold a press conference and read out the decision of the two presidents. Minister Samukai held the press conference on January 18, 2018 providing details of the expenditure and the decision that the government will refund the funds expended.

Solicitor General Cyrennius Cephus, in one of his charges suggest that the MOD should have issued a check of USD50,000 as GOL contributions after the death of Gen. Suraj Abdurrahman and that the MOD should not have used the welfare fund to pay for professional medical treatment of Sgt. Tituss who nearly died after a terrorist attack at the army base in Mali.

According to the SG, the source explained, Mr. Samukai and team should have not used the fund to support the AFL in providing their welfare in time of sickness or death, where family members of dead soldiers received between US$1000 and US$3000 dollars per family, or even to spend funds for after the death of Brig. Gen Eric Dennis Then Deputy Chief-of-Staff who died after a protracted illness leaving behind a huge family and financial burden while in service.

The source explained that it was established that the funds were being spent at the time so that when operational funds are appropriated in the MOD/AFL budget, those funds expended would have been refunded back to the AFL welfare account.

The minister’s aide said up to the time of his departure from government, the funds were never appropriated nor allocated in the budget for the AFL.

President Weah, upon taking office last January, refunded the funds back to the AFL’s welfare account as evidenced by a payment of USD $460,000 issued on December 7th, 2018.

Mr. Samukai, contacted at the weekend expressed dismay as to why the government is now going after him since his refusal to join the CDC as a candidate for the 2020 senatorial elections.  

Mr. Samukai maintains that he has documentary evidence and communications to show the legitimate utilization of the funds in question for the welfare of the AFL.

A recent audit conducted by the AFL also showed that the funds were expended on the welfare of the AFL although the government should have footed these expenditures or refund them at the time.

This is why, the source says, both EJS and GMW agreed for GOL to refund the money back to the AFL and the government provided a repayment on December 7, 2018.

The Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm, representing the legal interest of Brownie J. Samukai, Jr, former Minister of National Defense, has added its voice to the indictment, telling FrontPageAfrica Monday that their client is not involved in any act of corruption as is being alleged. “As lawyers representing Mr. Samukai, we believe that given the non-factual statements issued against our Client, and consistent with the dictates of Duty of Care as a professional lawyer, the government has erred in making public non-factual statements against our client.”

Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm said there is no evidence that Mr. Samukai used any portion of the AFL Welfare Funds for his personal use, adding that he did not need permission from soldiers to issue orders or instructions.

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